Imagine a life without electricity. No air conditioners and no fans in this unbearable heat. Nerve-wrenching to imagine, right? As summers are in full swing this year with higher than usual temperatures, so is the need for power. But unfortunately, our country is facing a power shortage. The coal shortage in the country has been in the headlines for a while now. Coal is a very dominant fuel to generate electricity in the country. However, at more than a hundred power plants in India, the coal stocks have fallen below 25% of the critical mark.
Since the start of April 2022, coal reserves in India’s thermal power plants have declined by almost 17%. This has led to long, planned power cuts in many states like Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Maharashtra, Bihar, and many others. Power shortages are expected to peak from April to October. A report by Reuters suggests that electricity supply fell short of demand by 1.88 billion units during April. This is the worst electricity shortage that India has faced in about six decades and there have been power cuts for as long as eight hours.
WHY IS INDIA FACING A COAL SHORTAGE?
India imports about 12% of the 70% of coal it uses in power generation. The recent Russia-Ukraine war has severely affected the international market. It has disrupted the international coal supply, caused more expensive imports, and affected India’s coal supply. The Russia-Ukraine conflict pushed the prices up by at least 45%-55%.
At the same time, the power demand has increased since the economy gained pace after the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The industries have started operating in a full-fledged manner. The energy demand increased from 106.6 billion units/month in 2019 to 132 billion units/month in 2022.
Adding to these, the sweltering heat waves the country is experiencing have also increased regular power consumption. Hence, the already exhausted thermal power plants have been put under an extra burden. According to reports, the country’s power demand astonishingly crossed a record 201-gigawatt mark in April 2022. The situation has reached severe levels. A total of 80 power plants are in critical condition in the country.
HOW IS THE GOVERNMENT DEALING WITH THIS SITUATION?
The Core Management Team (CMT), a ministerial sub-group, has been set up. Senior officials from the Ministry of Power, Coal, Railways, CEA, CIL, and SCCL meet regularly to make important operational decisions to increase the supply of coal to thermal power plants. The government has released revised coal stocking norms which make it compulsory for the powerplants to maintain sufficient stocks at all times and blend in imports if required. To meet the domestic power demand, Central Government has allowed states to use their captive coal reserves up to 25%.
The government is doing all it can to improve the power supply in the country. The Centre issued an order saying that providing coal supply to power units should be prioritized. The government and all the stakeholders should advisably work together to try to prevent any crisis in the near future as the demand for electricity will only rise thereon.
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